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NYC Apartment War Story: The Case of the Ceiling Poop

Now you're probably wondering "duh fuk is ceiling poop? Is that like ceiling cat, but a poop?"

Not exactly...it's more like this [TRIGGER WARNING: EXTREME POOP]:

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So that's my ceiling after months of being colonized by ceiling poop, only I thought it was just a run-of-the-mill, landlord-neglected-for-months, ceiling leak.

I was wrong...it was literally shit...leaking down into my bathroom and sometimes my head...from my ceiling...

Now I know what you're thinking...

!

O_o

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So how did my bathroom wind up like this?

It all started approximately 3 months ago (possibly more) with leaks from about 5 different places on my ceiling. As a result, the mold began to flourish...all the mold told the other mold who told their mold friends to come party in my bathroom, resulting in the mold version of the Occupy movement on my ceiling [TRIGGER WARNING: RAUCOUS MOLD PARTY]:

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There was a roof leak at the time affecting all the apartments in the building and the heavy rain at the time didn't help. My super came in one day and poked those holes in the ceiling to test the extent of the leak...

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Or what felt like that long, anyway, repairmen came and scraped off and painted over the mold after the roof leak had been fixed (that's how much NYC landlords care about your well-being, you guys!), but most of the leaks persisted, one of which was coming directly out of the light fixture on the ceiling.

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It's all kind of a blur at this point, but it was pretty much a back and forth with my super, lots of "we'll get to its," and that kind of b.s. At one point, I run into my downstairs neighbor who was also having a persistent leak in her apartment - she told me she called the health department, they inspected her apartment and issued the landlord a code violation. I had NO IDEA that the city responded to individual tenants' calls - I thought inspectors just randomly showed up and stuck violation notices in the hallway. Welp, I filed that conversation away in my mental "to do eventually" list and persisted in what I like to call "Eeyoring" the problem (it's my euphemism for shrugging my shoulders at a problem as a result of feeling powerless to fix it).

After more occasionally poking my super about the mold and leaks, he sent a painter to paint over the mold with this magic paint that supposedly makes the mold go away (I forget what it's called...any building supers in the house?)

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About a month ago, I got an obnoxious email from my landlord's office, telling me not to use my washing machine because of a plumbing problem in the building, and I was like "ummm...what about MY problem that I've been complaining about for months?" So I wrote the office person an email back telling her about our persistent molding and leak problem. Despite the magic paint, the mold had come back (the first picture in the post is what it looked like at that point) because, of course, the leak was still there.

So after nearly a month went by, I had decided I'd had enough of this annoying leak - it would disappear for a few days, then reappear, then trickle away, then reappear. I decided I would finally file a complaint with the city health department - to do so, all you need to to is call 311. When I say "health department," I specifically mean the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Once you file your complaint, HPD gets in touch with your landlord informing her/him of your complaint. Valid complaints include issues such as neglect to make necessary repairs that can threaten your health and safety, such as mold and leaks. If your landlord doesn't attend to the issue ASAP, then you should follow up with HPD and possibly have a code inspector come to your apartment. In my case, I called HPD the day before I left town for a week and when I came back, NOTHING HAD BEEN DONE about the leak or the mold.

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So this happened:

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...and then I wrote a politely, but strongly-worded email to the landlord's office stating that I would refuse to pay rent and would be in constant contact with HPD until the issue was resolved permanently (all previous attempts were bandaid solutions).

Sure enough, the next morning at 9am, my super shows up with the building engineer to finally FINALLY properly diagnose and fix the leak! The building engineer stepped onto the ladder and began to cut open the ceiling where the leak was and, as soon as he made the incision, IT BEGAN TO FLOOD!

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...and it smelled...so so SO BAD! Why? BECAUSE THE CAUSE OF THE LEAK WAS WASTEWATER FROM MY UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR'S TOILET!

For MONTHS, our ceiling had been leaking human waste into my bathroom and it had built up for so long that when the engineer began to take apart the ceiling, my bathroom FLOODED WITH SHIT!

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I'm not exaggerating when I say I was a bit traumatized by this...and angry...very very angry...My roommate and I politely asked for a discount on our rent, but the landlord refused. After a FUN AND EXCITING day navigating the courthouse at 111 Centre Street where the Housing Court is, we discovered there was nothing we could really do to seek any damages since the landlord EVENTUALLY had made the repair and there was no damage to our property. It was too bad, but I'm glad we learned something about Housing Court.

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New Yorkers, if you are having a persistent issue with your landlord and think you may need legal help, check out Housing Court Answers. Here, you should find all the information you need to force your landlord to do her/his job! Just FYI, the court fees are really not that high ($15-$45 depending on what course of action you take).

Let me know if you have any questions - if I don't know the answer off the top of my head, I may be able to point you in the right direction.

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